UK's lockdown-hit arts venues to get $2B rescue package

By JILL LAWLESS 06 July 2020, 12:00AM

LONDON (AP) — The British government has announced more than 1.5 billion pounds (almost $2 billion) to help the country’s renowned arts and cultural institutions recover from the coronavirus pandemic, after some theaters and music venues warned that without support they might never open again.

The 1.57 billion pound ($1.96 billion) package for museums, galleries, theaters, movie theaters, heritage sites and music venues includes almost 900 million pounds in grants and more than 200 million pounds in loans.

Details of how the money will be distributed have not been released, but leaders of arts organizations breathed a sigh of relief at the announcement.

“When we heard last night, we slept for the first time since March,” Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of London’s Young Vic theater, said Monday. “It is a real vindication that we have been listened to and that the government understand that we were dying on our knees and also that we are an important part of our country’s recovery.”

Tamara Roja, artistic director of the English National Ballet, said “this package gives our sector a fighting chance of survival.”

Britain’s arts — especially theater — generate billions in revenue, support hundreds of thousands of jobs, and play a big role in raising the country’s international profile.

Some U.K. arts institutions are starting to open their doors after more than three months of lockdown, starting with the National Gallery in London, which reopens Wednesday. But social distancing rules and an almost total absence of tourists mean they face a big financial hit.

Theaters and concert venues have not been told when they can admit audiences, and several have already announced they will close permanently.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said theaters would not be able to return to normal until the need for social distancing is over — and it’s too soon to say when that will be.

“I want to ensure it can happen,” he told the BBC. “I just want to be a bit realistic about the challenges of getting us back to that point any time soon.”

By JILL LAWLESS 06 July 2020, 12:00AM

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